The British and Irish Spa and Hot Tub Association (BISHTA) gives advice on the ‘business use’ of domestic hot tubs
Hot tubs have been increasing in popularity as additions to glampsites in recent years, as the owners and operators of these facilities look to gain greater occupancy rates, more advance bookings, differentiation from competitors, added value, and higher quality clientele.
A hot tub is designed for sitting or lying in up to the neck. It is a self-contained body of water that is recirculated, filtered and chemically treated. Hot tubs contain water heated to between 30ºC and 40ºC, and usually have hydrotherapy jet circulation with induced air bubble streams, which are controllable to varying degrees, depending on manufacturer and model. Some hot tubs also feature air blowers, where air is forcibly introduced into the spa water, via strategically sited jets by an additional electric air pump.
Poor quality products can wreak havoc with your business and will not only inconvenience your guests but could potentially be a court case waiting to happen. It is, therefore, essential to know your responsibilities for looking after equipment and having copies of important industry publications. The best place to access this type of information is through the British and Irish Spa and Hot Tub Association (BISHTA).
Holiday market specifics
The holiday market has some specific requirements for hot tubs and they may need to be modified and/or operated differently from those used in domestic homes. The guidance for the design should take into account:
- bather load
- source water quality
- drainage and water replacement
- access for cleaning, operation and maintenance
- balance tank (if appropriate)
- plant location
- chemical treatment and storage areas
- circulation rate and circulatory hydraulics
- turnover period
- materials of construction
- prevention of dead legs.
Guidance is contained in the Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) Health & Safety Guidance (HSG) 282 – ‘The control of legionella and other infectious agents in spa pool systems’.
The frequency of inspection and monitoring of the hot tub system will depend on some key factors such as its complexity, bather load and setting. The risk assessment should define the frequency of inspection and monitoring, and some typical recommended frequencies in HSG 282 include:
- There will need to be regular changes of water for the different bathers (usually not more than weekly)
- The water will need testing for chlorine /bromine and pH at least twice per day
- The cartridge filter, where fitted, should be replaced with a clean one when the water is replaced
- Microbiological testing should be carried out on a monthly basis for each hot tub, and quarterly for the presence of legionella.
Making adjustments to the equipment
Important consideration needs to be given to filling the hot tub, and the hotter the source of the fill water to begin with the better, as this will save time in heating it up (but be aware of the potential risk of legionella being present in hot water). The heater capacity may need to be enhanced, and adequate drainage is also needed to empty the hot tub for cleaning.
To avoid holidaymakers causing problems tampering with the controls, designing simple controls for the business setting market is very important.
There is a need for continuous disinfection, and the hot tub design should include some form of inline feeder to keep a constant supply of sanitiser to the water. Water treatment products used should also include removing biofilm from parts of the hot tub not usually seen by the bather (such as in the pipe work). Additional filtration may be something for manufacturers to consider to further enhance the water quality.
To maintain water quality, the turnover times for hot tubs in business settings can be different to that expected for commercial spas. The maximum design water turnover time for lower bather loads associated with business use is 15 minutes, and six minutes for commercial-type spa pools (where bather loads are higher).
Things to ask before you buy
Ensure you have a clear idea of the maximum number of people who will be potentially using the hot tub. If you advertise your accommodation as sleeping a maximum number of eight people, the spa you need to install for that unit should also, therefore, seat at least eight people, to avoid any potential problems.
Water treatment is a vital part of the management of any hot tub on site as it is critical to maintaining water hygiene and the safety of your clients, and to comply with industry guidance such as HSG 282.
Some internet providers have products that customers may believe to be from one country but are actually from an entirely different continent, so check carefully and do not assume a name means that product or company source their products from that country! Ask who the manufacturer of the hot tub is, and check out their website to clarify where their equipment is manufactured. It has been brought to BISHTA’s attention that at least one company has misled potential customers by suggesting that their product was manufactured in America when it was manufactured in China.
Clarify which features you will be getting regarding the number of seats, number and style of jets, entertainment systems available and the manufacturer of the control box (power pack). Also get clear pricing showing which features are included as standard, and which are an extra cost.
Ensure a site survey is undertaken to check for various items eg. a suitable firm base for the hot tub to be installed.
Most hot tubs need to be ‘hard-wired’ back to the consumer unit, so you will need to ensure the actual power supply is provided by an electrician, in conformity with the Electrical Wiring Regulations. The person making the final connection of your hot tub to the supply should be capable of undertaking this work.
Always ask to see the full warranty details of the hot tub before you buy, as this may vary between products and in some instances it may not be offered by the same company, which may cause difficulties.
Check what arrangements there are for call outs and servicing if anything goes wrong with your purchase under warranty, including timescales and costs. This is of particular importance to owners and operators of holiday accommodation, as many consumers book accommodation on the basis of having a hot tub, so any downtime could lead to customer dissatisfaction and lost revenue. Some dealers offer a priority call out service for holiday let properties, but usually charge an additional fee.
Before making the purchase, clarify in writing when the product is to be delivered, as genuine companies will inform you if there is going to be a delay in receiving your goods. Sometimes, genuine companies will need to wait for a full container to be shipped to the UK, while other companies may try and mislead you, so get the details in writing.
Ask to speak with genuinely satisfied customers and check customer reviews on the internet.
If you are considering buying from an internet-based company and you’re concerned as to whether they’re going to be reliable, simply find out where the company is based and go and visit them yourself.
Where can I go to see a hot tub working?
The majority of hot tub dealers in the UK display hot tubs in their stores or showrooms. Call them and ask them for a full wet-test. It’s a very reasonable request and most dealers will agree and can arrange one for you. The only real way to ensure that you get the hot tub that’s perfect for your customers’ needs is to try it out yourself. You wouldn’t spend many thousands of pounds on any other product without trying it out beforehand, and spas should be no different.
Each one has its own unique feel. When you do wet-test, note the depth of the water, the seating capacity and location of seats, and the variety and power of the jets (and how controllable they are). Look for a hot tub with seats deep enough to cover your clients’ shoulders (you don’t want them complaining the spa is unusable if the weather is cold); others should be high enough to let you cool down. Make sure you can stretch out and get comfortable.
How much will it cost?
Like any purchase, there is a wide range between the cheapest and most expensive products on the market. There are many factors to take into consideration, including the size and style of the equipment that you would like. In general terms, you can buy a good quality hot tub for about the same price as a family car. There are products which can be purchased from under £5,000, but the higher quality, more reliable hot tubs which come with full service back up usually cost in the range of £8,000 to £20,000.
Above all, apply the same common sense to the purchase of a hot tub as you would any other high-ticket item, and remember the old adage; if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
What about maintenance and upkeep?
This is the most important aspect of ensuring a smooth and trouble-free experience, and happy customers. When a hot tub is installed in a holiday let there are specific responsibilities you have for health protection. By following the HSE regulations you will ensure the safety of your clients and protect them from potentially harmful infections, as well as physical risks. These responsibilities for the management of spa pool systems are covered under the HSG 282.
It is important to have a trained, competent person to carry out the various tasks of regular testing, cleaning, water chemistry maintenance, filter maintenance, recording, servicing, and draining and refilling. BISHTA can assist you with training to ensure regulatory compliance. However, please talk to your supplier if you would rather sub-contract these activities to a third party, as many companies who specialise in supplying hot tubs to the holiday let market offer these services for an additional fee, as well as incorporating priority warranty cover in the event of a breakdown.
Will I need planning permission?
The installation of a hot tub does not usually require planning permission. However, if you are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (or similar) or you are installing the hot tub in a permanent building, then the building may require planning approval. It is always best to check with your local planning authority for clarification.
Don’t forget the cost of installation!
When you come to budgeting the cost of your hot tub, don’t forget to allow sufficient funds to cover installation costs. Often these are negotiable, but BISHTA strongly recommends that you insist that your contract includes an installation package by your dealer, as the weight of the product will, more often than not, require specialist lifting and handling equipment. Some companies may offer an all-inclusive service, but the chances are that these costs will be on top of the price of the equipment itself. Always ask for a detailed written quote so that you are sure of what is and isn’t included. Installation isn’t complicated, and it’s certainly not like installing a full-sized swimming pool.
You also need to give some thought to any decking, paving, or other landscaped area that you might want around your hot tub but, again, a site survey ahead of delivery is normally included in the price, and this is something you can bring up and discuss with your supplier during your site visit.
Where can I find out more?
To find a hot tub supplier near to you visit the BISHTA website, as BISHTA represents manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers, service engineers and hirers of hot tubs throughout the British Isles. BISHTA members have to undertake rigorous water hygiene management training and are compelled to abide by a Code of Ethics to demonstrate they are committed to being professional and reputable companies.
All members and their products have to comply with BISHTA Standards, which are a comprehensive and detailed set of technical and business standards geared to giving a consumer complete peace of mind. The BISHTA website is your source of any information you require on a dealer or a particular brand, so please do utilise it to its maximum effect: www.bishta.co.uk
Thinking of becoming a BISHTA member?
BISHTA offers a specific level of membership (Associate) to owners and operators of holiday properties, with tailored support to help ensure compliance with the regulations/guidance, and a smooth and hassle-free hot tub operating experience for owners and clients. You’ll also get to display the BISHTA logo on your website and printed collateral to demonstrate to your customers your commitment to their safety and enjoyment, and the peace of mind that entails.
For more information, please contact 01264 356211 / www.bishta.co.uk